Madeleine's family: She was drugged . . . but not by her parents
From Martin Evans and David Pilditch in Praia da Luz
2 October 2007
THE parents of missing Madeleine McCann now believe she was drugged before being snatched by an abductor, it was claimed last night.
Madeleine's grandmother said the family now accepted there was a chance the little girl had been sedated before being carried out of the holiday apartment in Praia da Luz almost five months ago.
Eileen McCann - Gerry's mother - said it was the only explanation for why Madeleine did not scream when she was taken from her bed.
Her dramatic claims came on a day when the Portuguese police said they were finally close to proving the three-year-old was drugged on the night she went missing.
Detectives have allegedly recovered a single strand of her hair from behind a sofa in the McCanns' holiday apartment and believe it holds the key to unlocking the case.
The sample is being analysed by toxicologists at the Forensic Science Service laboratory in Birmingham and results are expected within days. The Policia Judiciaria are confident this will support their theory that Madeleine died on the night of May 3 as a result of an overdose of sedatives or other drugs.
And in a surprise move, the McCann camp last night said it too now accepted that Madeleine may have been drugged.
Eileen McCann, 69, said: "I really believe they [whoever took her] gave her a drug. There is no way they carried her out of there without her waking. If she was taken when she was sleeping by somebody she did not know, she would have screamed the place down."
The McCanns have vehemently denied giving their children anything stronger than Calpol and have insisted they had no sedatives of any sort with them on holiday.
But the police have always felt it was possible that the McCanns, who are both doctors, could have been sedating their children so that they could go out and dine with their friends undisturbed.
A PJ source said: "It is interesting that the McCanns are now saying they think their daughter was drugged. It is suspicious that they have found an explanation just as the evidence begins to build."
The hair sample is regarded as significant because it was recovered next to tiny specks of blood, which are thought to belong to Madeleine.
It was discovered during a second set of searches at key locations in Praia da Luz in July, involving sniffer dogs. Detectives believe the strand, which is said to have allimportant cells from the follicle still attached, was shed either at the point of death or soon afterwards.
They are hoping this will provide a much more accurate forensic picture than other DNA evidence collected and will eventually justify their decision to declare Kate and Gerry arguidos, official suspects, and accuse them of killing their daughter. But experts in the field have cast doubt on whether such forensic evidence could form a case against the McCanns.
Robin Hoole, who worked for the FSS laboratory in Birmingham, said: "Forensic evidence does not prove a case. So far, there does not seem to be much of a case against them. If they are charged, they can probably present a strong defence for how Madeleine's DNA came to be in the car and apartment."
Allan Scott, a lecturer in forensic science at the University of Central Lancashire said: "Forensic evidence is always contextual. You have got to keep an open mind."
Meanwhile, the McCanns are preparing for a new round of TV interviews focusing on Spain and Portugal. A publicity push is also in the offing and a TV campaign in Arabic is planned for Morocco, where there have been possible sightings of Madeleine. The McCanns are restricted on what they can say by Portuguese law.
Q: Do you think the children were sedated?
A: There is no doubt.
Kate from the book ' madeleine' 'I wandered into the children’s bedroom several times to check on Sean and Amelie. They were both lying on their fronts in a kind of crouch, with their heads turned sideways and their knees tucked under their tummies. In spite of the noise and lights and general pandemonium, they hadn’t stirred. They’d always been sound sleepers, but this seemed unnatural. Scared for them, too, I placed the palms of my hands on their backs to check for chest movement, basically, for some sign of life. Had Madeleine been given some kind of sedative to keep her quiet? Had the twins, too?